Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Setting Goals

Before I make my goals for 2009 I like to look back on the previous year's goals to see what was realistic and what wasn't.

In 2008 my goals were
1. Lose weight (I lost 21 pounds, not earth-shattering, but a start)
2. Become a better teacher (I taught 5 community college classes per week for more than half the year as well as more shop classes than usual)
3. Promote my quilt guild fashion shows more (I spoke at the So Cal meet the teacher and sent out postcards resulting in more bookings in the future)
4. Attend Houston show to finally see my Bernina Fashion Show ensemble (Third time I had an ensemble in the show, but the first time I attended. Wow! There's nothing like actually being there!)
5. Go to the gym 5 days a week (I was doing okay with this one until the last 2 months, guess that will be an ongoing goal)

I've been feeling down lately. My community college classes were curtailed due to budget cutbacks and my husband is stationed in the Middle East for a year while my youngest headed off to college leaving me with empty nest. Reading this list of accomplishments makes me feel better. I think we need to remind ourselves what we've done RIGHT every now and then.

My goals for the new year:
1. Continue losing weight and living a healthier life style (this has definitely slipped over the holidays)
2. Take a college class on pattern design (I have over 70 jackets using just a few patterns. Isn't it time for a change?)
3. Work through some of the wonderful books I've acquired this year (It isn't enough to just read them. I need to use them!)
4. Take more pictures and learn Photoshop or other photo editing software
5. Work up a book proposal (I have an idea, but somehow I'd rather be creating new art than writing. Must be one of those right brain/left brain things)

Now that I've listed my goals in public I'm more likely to accomplish them. How about you? Did you accomplish most of what you wanted in 2008? Does it affect what you plan for 2009?


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Final Bahrain pictures

Here are the last of my pictures of Bahrain.

This sign is in my husband's apartment building. Bahrainis speak English very well so I'm guessing the sign was made by one of the third world workers. Definitely not quite the way we'd say it, but I think you can guess what they meant.

Here is a picture of a dhow, one of the flat bottomed boats they use for fishing. The waters in the area are very shallow so they must have boats that can navigate there. This boat was high and dry and for show purposes only near the Pearl roundabout.

This is one of the interesting buildings I saw on the north shore. The reliefs are somewhat Egyptian looking.

This is the gate to that building and doesn't look Egyptian at all to me, but I loved the lions.

This is a closeup of the relief designs on the archway leading to the building. Don't you just want to do some crayon rubbings of them?

And finally this is the archway on the other side of the building taken from a distance. I'm not sure what the split at the top of the archway signifies.

I hope you enjoyed the brief tour of Bahrain. In my next post I hope to talk about some of my plans for the new year.
Enjoy the rest of the holidays,

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Bahraini Souq

Today I have some pictures from the main souq in Bahrain. The day I went was a holiday so there were not many people. This is not normally the case.

Here is some of the grillwork at the mosque just outside the souq. It's a landmark that I use to find my way in since nothing is marked. I loved seeing all the decorative work on the buildings, especially the mosques. Here are some traditional special occasion dresses on view in a window on the way into the souq. As you go further into the souq area shops go from large display windows to smaller ones to none. Many of the shops don't even have doors as we know them. Instead they have metal industrial doors that they close when the shops are closed. To keep the cool air inside (many, but not all of them have air conditioning) they put see-through plastic curtains up that overlap.
This shop was open despite the holidays and had lots of bright clothes with shi-sha mirrors and metallic trims on display.
The back alleys of the souq are potholed and filthy, but sometimes you can find better deals off the beaten path. You have to be willing to run the gauntlet of vendors hawking singing camels and genuine imitation Rolexs!
I'm currently working on a dream plan for 2009. Time seems to be slipping away and there are so many things I want to do. Let me know if you have a list of things you hope to start, try out, finish or just do better at next year.
Merry Christmas all!

Friday, December 19, 2008

First Bahraini Pictures

Here are some of the pictures I took while in Bahrain:

This is a skyscraper that is new since I lived in Bahrain. It looks amazing! It's leaning, but not leaning. I'm not sure it's a very efficient use of space, but very innovative.

This is a view from the gym at my husband's apartment. The area you see below is fairly typical. People really do live right next to each other like that and the buildings tend to be light colored because of the heat. Buildings are made of concrete, not wood and have flat roofs (no snow!) that often double as patios.

Another view of the pointy skyscraper and the 2 towers. I wish I'd gotten a better view of the towers. They are shaped like sails, but bowed in opposite directions. At night I couldn't take my eyes off of them. They have large lights on many levels and they change colors in no discernable pattern. Quite mesmerizing.

This is the empty lot next to my husband's apartment. I wanted you to see the color of the "soil" and to show you how much construction is constantly occuring around the perimeter of the island.

And finally this is a picture of the "new" bridge. Bahrain is actually made up of many islands so bridges are a necessity, at least until they fill in all the land in that area. The island is constantly enlarging and what was ocean front property when I lived there in 1999 is now quite aways inland.

More to come...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Home Again

I made it home, finally. Two hours late because of delays, but I'm here :-)

I really don't like to fly. It's not that I'm afraid or anything, but I'm not very good at sitting around waiting and it seems like that's all you do! You check in and then you wait. You get on board and then you wait. You take off (finally after de-icing in both Amsterdam and Detroit) and you wait a loooong time to get to your destination. Then you wait to get off. Then you find your next gate and do it all again. Three flights, 34 hours, no more sleep than a few 30 minute naps here and there and worst of all no shower! I can't wait until the days of Star Trek type transporters!

The last day I was in Bahrain I treated myself to some henna. I found a great place called Rachna's Henna Saloon. (Don't ask me why it was a saloon; there certainly wasn't any liquor there!) Let me know if you're going to Bahrain and I can give you great directions, LOL. No men allowed, ladies only :-)

It's not normally done on the underside of the arm like this, but I've had it done before on the backs of my hands and it somehow really emphasizes every little wrinkle and my wrinkles are no longer tiny! Why is it that my hands look at least 10 years older than the rest of me?!

Anyway here it is. Don't you just love it! She put it on using a squeeze bag just like you'd decorate a cake. When she finished it looked like someone had drawn on me using mud. You let it dry for at least 4 hours (this is the hardest part!) then brush off the mud to find your skin stained orange below every line and dot. Overnight it darkens to a nice brown. It should last at least 2 weeks, maybe more, then will fade away. I wish I could find someone here that does it because I think it's great fun. I love the designs they use (it's totally freeform and you never get the same thing twice) and the idea that it's not permanent or painful (no tattoos for me, thanks!)

I wish there was a better picture, but it was really hard to take a picture one handed. My camera just wasn't made for that sort of thing.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Souqs and Driving

Only two more days in Bahrain. While I'm not anxious to leave my husband I am looking forward to being home with my familiar things surrounding me. Perhaps it's sensory overload...

I made it to the souqs on Thursday and both parking lots were full so I tried to get to a parking garage I used to use when we lived here ten years ago. The only problem was that my memory on how to get inside was fuzzy (I could see it, but just couldn't get to it) and there are too many one way streets in that part of the city. Eventually (20 minutes of aggressive driving later) I found my way inside.

I wandered all the back alleyways of the souq this time looking for something really unusual. Unfortunately I really didn't see anything I hadn't seen before. It seemed like every other vendor was trying to get me to buy genuine fake rolex watches, mosque clocks and singing camels. Not exactly what I was looking for. Despite the dingy potholed areas I was walking alone I never felt nervous, perhaps because I've lived here and it is more familiar to me.

I managed to find 2 interesting pieces of 100% cotton Indonesian batik. Most shops carry the Indonesian batiks, but they are almost all partially polyester now. Although there were some very prettily colored ones I did not buy any. There was just too much polyester in them (you have to be able to tell by feel since nothing is marked) for good piecing.

Driving over here is a rare treat, LOL. Pierre rented a car for the time I'm here and it's a tinny rattle trap that would fold in a second in an accident. Not only that, but it has no airbags. You have to drive a fine line somewhere between agressive and defensive. Watch out for the other guy constantly (blinkers are rarely used and it's common to turn from a middle lane that's marked straight only), but if you give way too much you'll never get anywhere. Honking seems part of the driving process and you constantly hear toots of the horn. If you're not going fast enough I know someone who was literally pushed into the median by a Saudi driver going about 100 km/hour.

One of the cool things they have here which are different: when you're sitting at a red light the red AND yellow lights come on together just before the light turns green. I guess it means you can start, but with caution as there may be someone running the red light. That doesn't happen any more often than at home because so many of the lights have cameras.

The other cool thing here for drivers are the roundabouts. I know many people don't like them, but it's only because they don't know how to use them. Here it is common to have a 2 or 3 lane roundabout with 5 or 6 roads leading into it. You yield when entering. Which lane you enter in depends on how far around you are going. If you think about where you're entering as 6:00 and you want to get off at 3:00 you should enter using the right lane. If you want to go all the way around (as in a U turn) or to 9:00 you are in the left lane. It sounds like chaos, but it actually works very well and you spend less time waiting at traffic lights. I've seen a few accidents while here, but none in roundabouts.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Eid al Adah

I went to the souq four days ago and was very disappointed to discover that it was the start of an eid (holiday). Eid al Adah or the Feast of Sacrifice was beginning and 3/4 of the shops were closed. I made lemonade though by taking advantage of the smaller crowds to take pictures of the souqs.

When we first moved here in 1997 I went through an indoctrination. It was very interesting and I learned many things. A few that I still recall: it is considered rude here to eat with your left hand (good thing I'm right handed!) and to sit with the bottom of you foot showing (unfortunately I have to keep remembering that since that is very comfortable). They also suggested that we should ask permission before taking pictures of anyone. Consequently I didn't take many pictures when we were here before.

At the shops that were open on Monday I managed to find a few pieces of polyester to buy that struck my eye, but cotton is hard to come by. There are many many fabric stores in the fabric section of the souq (none of which is listed in the yellow pages, LOL), but 90% of the fabric is polyester. Beautiful, beautiful pieces of polyester, but not appropriate for piecing. One of the pieces I selected is a silvered sheer and will work well over another fabric and the other is a magenta shot purple that I couldn't resist. It would make a great background to machine applique over.

Eids last 3 days here (this one had something to do with sacrificing a goat according to one of the shops that was open on Monday) and is finally over so I'm planning on going back today to shop some more, but it's Thursday which is like Saturday and I'm afraid it will be very crowded. I'm going with Pierre on Saturday, but I want to get back to all the nooks and crannies. It's amazing how when you ask for something and they don't have it they call someone else over to watch their shop and you're immediately plunging into the back alleyways trying to keep them in sight as they lead you to someone who has it. Inshallah.

Inshallah means God willing and is definitely the byword here. The repairman will come today, inshallah. More likely he'll show up next Tuesday. You get the idea?

Shopping in the souqs requires a good sense of direction, a good sense of humor and a good sense of adventure. There are no road signs. You're constantly leaping into the street (which is just wide enough for a car) to avoid crowds, then leaping out again when a car honks at you. You never know what will be around the next bend. Today I hope to find the spice souq. I used to know where it was, but things are very fluid here. My favorite silk dupioni shop is gone and I haven't figured out what they call it yet to ask for it. I've been shown all sorts of other things and I've tried describing it as raw silk, rough silk, lined silk, but no luck. If I ever come again I'll bring a small sample with me.

I'm off on another adventure! Remind me to tell you about driving next time ;-)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Sponsorship in Bahrain

In Bahrain most of the menial jobs are performed by people from third world countries. To get them here they put ads in the papers of countries such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, the Philipines and Bangladesh. Once someone answers the ad they are sponsored by a Bahraini individual, the only way they can come to this country to work.

The deal with the sponsor is up to the individual sponsor, but the sponsor pays for the flight to Bahrain. Some offer to pay for brief trips home every two years or so. Once a sponsored individual is here what they do is pretty much up to the sponsor. Some women are placed in brothels, others work as maids, beauticians, etc. Most of the men go into manual labor. A percentage of their wages goes to the sponsor. Some are mistreated and run away, living in illegal slum communities, ekking out a living as best they can while trying to stay under the government's radar.

I'm fairly sure this system was set up to bring in help for Bahraini homes, but some take advantage of the system and bring over many more people than they need which is why there are always people looking for work and labor is so inexpensive. You can't go anywhere without someone offering to wash your car for a dinar and I had no end of applicants when we hired a maid when we lived here before.

All of this makes me so grateful to have been born in the US where we have a high living standard as well as individual freedoms and rights. Visiting a place like Bahrain really makes you think about what might have been, but for the accident of your birthplace.

Tomorrow the souqs!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Ah, Bahrain

I'm adjusting to Bahrain and have actually slept the whole night (hooray) after 4 days of just a few hours here and there. It must have been the exhaustion!

I am reminded of what I loved about living in Bahrain.
  • It's exotic! There's nothing like trying to figure out how to use a combination washer/dryer to get the brain working again, LOL. And everwhere you look there are things you've never seen anything like before. The signs, the artwork, the clothing, the manhole covers, the architecture, everything is new and unusual!
  • The food is fabulous! Pierre took me out to a hotel restaurant the first night I was here. An all-you-can-eat buffet, they had a fabulous salad bar with such exotic things as sliced, cooked pumpkin with a sweet glaze and so many unusual salads! Then you could select your main dish from a variety of meats (the tenderloin was to die for!) along with some veggies and they individually prepared it for you. While you were waiting for that there were over 30 different types of bread and rolls as well as soup, cheeses, etc to sample. Along with the meat and veggies I had some lovely almond rice and some cumin potatoes I'd love to try to duplicate at home. And maybe I shouldn't mention all the luscious desserts available. I tried 6 (!) and enjoyed 4 of them. Now before you start thinking I was real pig, the cakes were teensie tiny pieces, even if they were 7 layers tall! I wish I'd had room (and the nerve) to try the creme brulee or the tiramisu. And this was just one meal! I'm going to have to be careful and pace myself. It's no surprise that when I moved back to the US after living here for 2 years I weighed the most I've ever weighed!
  • Labor is very inexpensive here. In a way I feel guilty about taking advantage of the fact, but they're here by their own choice and they need our money to send back home. My pedicurist was from Nepal and a delightful woman. The sad part is that she hasn't seen her 2 boys in 3 years. The woman who gave me a wonderful massage is Philipino and sends her money home to help support her parents whom she has not seen in 5 years.

Next time I will try to explain the system they have here for bringing labor into the country. I've rambled on enough for now!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Joys of Travel

I'm here! I left Tuesday around noon and arrived Thursday around noon. 48 hours of traveling is not my cup of tea, but I made it. I was supposed to arrive last night, but my flight from Amsterdam to Bahrain was cancelled and I had to reroute through Dubai.

That left me with 7+ hours in Amsterdam and nothing to do. I wish I could say I did something really wonderful, but to be honest mostly I walked up and down through the various terminals. I wasn't lost or anything, I was trying to stay awake. I didn't get more than and hour or two of cramped sleep on the plane the night before and I was so tired I couldn't even think straight! I didn't even have enough brain power to figure out how to change my dollars into euros so I didn't buy anything either. All that lovely duty free merchandise...

But I'm in Bahrain now. I've showered and feel like a new person. Going 48 hours without showering is pure torture! First impresions the island has changed a lot. I used to know my way around, but I'm totally lost with flashes of "oh yeah". Right now I'm going to take a nap because Pierre and I are having dinner out with friends tonight. More later!

P.S. Sorry about the funky typing, but the keyboard is full of Arabic script as well as the usual letters and symbols and I'm not a proficient typist at the best of times :-)